FORT CAMPBELL, Kentucky – After defeating hundreds of thousands of improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two decades, U.S. Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal leaders are mapping the way ahead for EOD missions in large scale combat operations.
The Army’s two Active Duty EOD groups, the Fort Campbell, Kentucky-based 52nd Ordnance Group (EOD) and Fort Carson, Colorado-based 71st Ordnance Group (EOD), came together to discuss future EOD missions at the Kinnard Mission Training Center on Fort Campbell, Dec. 7 - 9.
The EOD groups are part of the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, the U.S. Department of Defense’s premier all hazards formation.
The Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland-headquartered command is home to 75 percent of the Active Army’s EOD technicians and CBRN specialists, as well as the 1st Area Medical Laboratory, CBRNE Analytical and Remediation Activity, five Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordination Teams and three Nuclear Disablement Teams.
Along with 52nd EOD Group Commander Col. Gregory J. Hirschey and 71st EOD Group Commander Col. Michael G. Schoonover, the exercise was attended by five EOD battalion commanders and 24 EOD company commanders.
Representatives from the Training and Doctrine Command Proponent Office for Explosive Ordnance Disposal, U.S. Army Futures Command, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Department of the Army Headquarters also participated in the exercise.
Spearheaded by the 52nd EOD Group, the exercise leveraged the experience of multiple EOD commanders and staff to inform changes to doctrine, training and capability integration.
More than 100 Army EOD technicians participated in the exercise with an average of 10 years of experience each, bringing together a millennium of experience in this high stakes profession.
Lt. Col. Michael T. Long, the deputy director of the TRADOC Proponent Office for Explosive Ordnance Disposal, said the exercise examined future EOD operations across the full spectrum of doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities and policy issues.
Long said the lessons learned from the exercise will help to shape Army Techniques Publication 4-32 for Explosive Ordnance Disposal with a focus on large scale combat operations in support of Army divisions. Other non-EOD publications may be updated as well.
“The entire Army is facing the challenge of resetting to a large scale combat operations fight after two decades of counterinsurgency,” said Long, a 20-year U.S. Army veteran from Middletown, Ohio, who has deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Long said EOD units are currently structured for counterinsurgency operations with modular brigade combat teams. With large scale combat operations, the span of control will increase and EOD will have to support forces at the division level.
“Even prior to the Global War on Terrorism, EOD technicians were trained and prepared to deal with IEDs and all other explosive hazards,” said Long. “The change comes with the shift to large scale combat operations with the great volume of expected explosive hazards, very large operational area and the mission command headquarters role in properly aligning and employing the EOD companies and teams.”
Lt. Col. Justin L. Gerron from the 52nd EOD Group said the tabletop exercise specifically addressed EOD missions in support of rear area security, wet gap crossings, joint forcible entry and steady state operations.
“The lessons learned from the past 20 years of counterinsurgency operations remain relevant because those threats will still be present in a large scale combat operations fight,” said Gerron, a Kennedale, Texas, native who has deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. “However, the prevalence and emphasis placed on those threats is significantly less during the opening stages of large scale combat operations.”
According to Gerron, preparing for large scale combat operations is a doctrinal shift that leaders need to embrace to sustain the U.S. Army’s competitive advantage against near peer adversaries in a multi-domain environment.
Maj. Gen. Antonio V. Munera, the commanding general of 20th CBRNE Command, said the EOD tabletop exercise is another example of how his one-of-a-kind formation is preparing to defeat current and future threats.
“Our 20th CBRNE Command Soldiers and civilians will continue to do what only they can do and that is to enable lethality and freedom of maneuver while safeguarding our forces from all threats and hazards on the modern battlefield,” said Munera, a native of Fairfax, Virginia.